The acquisition of cable TV provider Aster by its direct competitor UPC has been given conditional approval by UOKIK, the Polish competition authority.

UPC and Aster operate primarily in Warsaw and Cracow. Their combined market share in both cities is between 50-60%.

Before approving the merger, UOKIK conducted a market inquiry to establish the views of the companies’ competitors. It noted that giving unconditional consent for the merger would result in the creation of a dominant undertaking and could lead to the significant restriction of competition in the pay cable TV market. This could be potentially harmful to consumers, recipients of fixed-line broadband internet and pay cable TV.

UOKIK therefore imposed certain conditions which the companies have 18 months to comply with from the date of the decision:

  • part of the Aster’s cable network in the buildings in Warsaw and Cracow from which both companies provided pay cable TV before the merger must be sold to an independent company outside the UPC group in a transaction approved by UOKIK
  • Aster customers in buildings where UPC provides its services must be given a right to choose a new provider regardless of any existing contracts they have with Aster

Conditional decisions are relatively rare in Poland: this is only the 13th since 2004 and the 2nd this year.